GREEN BAY, Wis. — Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans submitted papers on July 30 to place a measure on November’s ballot. That non-binding ballot measure would uphold a Christian-style invocation before full meetings of the Brown County Board of Supervisors. The proposed ballot measure read, “Should the Brown County Board of Supervisors continue to open their monthly board meeting with a Christian-style (prayer) invocation?”
The current ordinance requires that the board’s vice chair opens each meeting with an invocation. Evans charged that some supervisors wanted to open the invocation process to “anybody who comes in.” He is reported as saying that “If they are Wiccan, they pray to the devil,” and would invoke the Christian devil. He added, “I support where we have it now, having it Christian based.”
PHOENIX, Ariz. — In January, The Satanic Temple of Tuscon was given the co-ahead to offer an invocation before the Feb. 17 Phoenix city council meeting. When the news was made public, there was an immediate backlash led by council member Sal DiCiccio of District 6. On Jan 28, DiCiccio tweeted, “Another dumb idea by the City of #PHX.
LINCOLNTON, North Carolina — Prayer at public meetings is often a battleground with members of minority faiths seeking to have their viewpoints represented, while others argue that such religious ceremony doesn’t belong in a governmental setting. Since the Supreme Court’s 2014 Town of Greece v Galloway decision that allowed such prayers provided minority faiths are included, Pagans and others have sought to test those boundaries. For example, the pantheist David Suhor sang an invocation of the quarters at a county commission meeting in Florida. More recently, when the issue of inclusiveness sprang up in the foothills region of North Carolina, it led to a new level of interfaith dialog in the form of the Foothills Interfaith Assembly. The commissioners of Lincoln County in North Carolina open their meetings with a prayer, and it’s always been a Christian one.
Over the past few months we have been reporting on several stories involving religious freedom challenges. Here are updates on those stories:
Beebe, Arkanasas makes national news
On June 17, we reported that Arkansas resident Bertram Dahl had been denied the necessary permits to open a Pagan temple on his property. In addition, he was harassed by a neighboring Pentecostal church and, eventually, arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. This past week, the national news picked up Dahl’s story. On July 28, The New York Times published the article, “Pagan High Priest Finds Few Believers Inside City Hall.”
On Monday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) upheld the right of legislators to offer sectarian prayer before conducting business. The landmark decision overturned a U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the now famous case, Town of Greece vs. Galloway. SCOTUS’ concluded that “the town’s prayer practice does not violate the Establishment Clause.”
The case began in 2007 when Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens challenged the town’s legislative prayer practice which, to that point, had only included Christian clergy. The case was heard by the U.S. District Court in Western New York which ruled in favor of the town stating:
The Christian identity of most of the prayers givers reflected the predominantly Christian character of the town’s congregations, not an official policy or practice of discriminating against minority faiths. The District Court also stated that the town was exempt from seeking clergy outside its own borders in order to maintain religious diversity.